Last week the Council announced that, for the third year in a row, it will be protecting the amount of money it gives in grants to voluntary sector organisations. And that’s despite the dramatic reductions in the Council’s own budget which has been cut by some £50 million since 2010.
Frankly it’s not been all that easy to protect cash for voluntary organisations again this year. In fact to make it possible, sacrifices have had to be made elsewhere and for that reason I thought I should spend a little time explaining why for us the voluntary sector is a priority.
Scores of local organisations are set to receive a share of some £2.3 million in the next financial year and it is therefore difficult to neatly categorise all the ways that money will get spent; so my literary technique here is to pick one to stand for all the others.
Up at Sirdar Road in North Kensington, not far from our new academy and leisure centre, you will find the ClementJames Centre. Amongst other things, it runs a range of English courses to help people participate fully in UK life and to find a job. It runs an ‘into university’ programme helping young people to acquire the confidence, skills and knowledge to pass their exams and get a place at university or college. It runs programmes that help people into training and employment. The ClementJames Centre is also a place of refuge and calm where people become friends, find support and advice and can plan their futures.
Many hundreds of our residents have passed successfully through its doors. I like to think that the ClementJames Centre, and other local organisations like it, express something about the kind of borough Kensington and Chelsea aspires to be: a place where no matter what their background, residents have opportunity and the personal and professional support to take advantage of it.
Of course the day may come when we can no longer afford to completely protect the voluntary sector: that will be a grim day, but I am glad to say that it won’t be in 2015-16 and I’m very hopeful that it won’t be in 16-17 either.